Changes in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Throughout the Play

Changes in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Throughout the Play

Length: 1217 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Changes in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Throughout the Play


Throughout this play we can see significant changes in the character
of Macbeth. In Act One he is described as a brave war hero, but by Act
Four he has become a brutal murderer. These changes are influenced by
his ambition and conscience, the prophecies of the Witches and
pressure to act on the prophecies from Lady Macbeth.

In Act One we are aware of Macbeth's bravery because of the way in
which the Captain speaks about him, "...his brandished steel smoked
with bloody execution." (Act i scii) Macbeth's bravery in battle shows
us that he is being loyal to his king (God's representitive on Earth).
Macbeth earned the respect of many people, including Duncan, by
fulfilling his duty to fight for king and country, "He hath honour'd
me of late, and I have brought golden opinions from all sorts of
people." (Act i sc ii)

All seems to be going well for Macbeth untill he encounters the
Witches on the way back from battle. It is there that the idea of
becoming king himself is first planted in his mind. At first he does
not think it is possible to become king himself, "...and to be King,
stands not within the prospect of belief," (Act i sc iii) and thinks
he could never bring himself to kill Duncan and take his throne,
"Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair, and make my seated heart knock
at my ribs."

The idea of becoming king becomes more real to Macbeth when he
discovers he has become the new Thane of Cawdor. Because part of the
Witches' prophecies had been fulfilled it leads him to think that it
could be possible to take the throne. "Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor:
the greatest is behind." (Act i sc iii) When Lady Macbeth hears about
this in a letter, she becomes excited about becoming queen and goes so
far as to ask evil spirits to help her in the murder. "Thy letters
have transported me beyond this ignorant present, and I feel now the

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Changes in William Shakespeare's Macbeth Throughout the Play." 123HelpMe.com. 12 Dec 2019
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=114304>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Many Changes in Romeo Throught the Play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

- The Many Changes in Romeo Throught the Play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare The play “Romeo and Juliet“, which was written by William Shakespeare conveys many different ways in which the character of Romeo changes during the tragic play of Romeo and Juliet as well as the ways this contributes to the tragedy. It is very clear that the character of Romeo changes for many different reasons, the main reasons being the way he speaks, they way in which the characters speak to him, the way he speaks with other characters, what others do to him and how this contributes to the tragedy along with any other factors that should be considered....   [tags: Free Romeo and Juliet Essays]

Free Essays
954 words (2.7 pages)

Essay about Macbeth, By William Shakespeare

- The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “night” as “the period of darkness in each twenty-four hours; the time from sunset to sunrise.” However, “night” takes on a new meaning in William Shakespeare’s renowned play. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a tragedy set in eleventh century Scotland, focuses on the deterioration of a Scottish general named Macbeth. In the play, the title character is encouraged by his wife to kill the King Duncan so he himself can assume the role. He is persuaded to eliminate every obstacle in his way to the throne, including people....   [tags: Macbeth, William Shakespeare, Macbeth]

Research Papers
1475 words (4.2 pages)

William Shakespeare 's ' Hamlet ' Essay

- The Meaning of Hamlet When I think of argumentative writing or impressive use of speech I immediately refer to the famous Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Reading the popular monologue from Hamlet- “to be, not to be—that is the question” is a tremendous way of displaying balance in a rhetorical situation. As many of you all know the first line of this monologue because those legendary words have been used in conversations today. In reality does anyone really know William’s purpose for his passage....   [tags: Hamlet, William Shakespeare, Question, Death]

Research Papers
1010 words (2.9 pages)

Lady Macbeth By William Shakespeare Essay

- There was no other Shakespearean character that embodied the true spirit of evil and ruthless determination as Lady Macbeth. Macbeth by, William Shakespeare is a story shadowed by supernatural events filled with images of selfish violence and innocent blood, all ignited by a character that is like an apparition appearing only to mold the plot and disappear once devastation occurs. William Hazlitt analyzes this character in Macbeth: Critical Essay, “She is only wicked to gain a great end; and is perhaps more distinguished by her commanding presence of mind and inexorable self-will, which do not suffer her to be diverted from a bad purpose, when once formed, by weak and womanly regrets, than b...   [tags: Macbeth, Gender, Femininity, William Shakespeare]

Research Papers
1553 words (4.4 pages)

William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Essay

- The opening scene of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet will be the scene that I choose to analysis. Elements of plots that could be found in the first scene are exposition, point of attack, discovery and foreshadowing. Each one of these elements will be used to help analysis the scene and make it clear as to what is going on in the mind of Shakespeare. The first element of plot found in the first scene is exposition. We read that there are two groups The Montague’s and The Capulets, and they seem to not like each other....   [tags: William Shakespeare]

Free Essays
937 words (2.7 pages)

Jealousy in William Shakespeare's Othello Essay

- Jealousy in William Shakespeare's Othello In the play Othello, jealousy and envy are prominent themes from the beginning to the end. As the play slowly unfolds it is evident that jealousy is the cause of most of the dramatic actions which take place in the duration of the play. It is described as the "green - eyed monster." "Green" representing the colour of envy, and "monster" shows how destructive and how vicious it can be. This quotation is said by a character named Iago....   [tags: William Shakespeare Othello]

Research Papers
1966 words (5.6 pages)

William Shakespeare's Presentation of the Changes in Capulet in Romeo and Juliet

- William Shakespeare's Presentation of the Changes in Capulet in Romeo and Juliet In Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, Capulet is the father of Juliet and appears to be typical of fathers in the late 1600's as he was very demanding and controlling of his family, he was often keen to reaffirm his position as the leader of the family and treated his wife and daughter with little respect similar to that of household items which can be discarded when you feel they are no longer meeting your individual needs and desires....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
1500 words (4.3 pages)

William Shakespeare's Richard III Essay

- William Shakespeare's Richard III William Shakespeare’s characterization of Britain’s historical monarch Richard III, formerly Duke of Gloucester, is one of the most controversial in literature. To this day there are arguments upholding Richard III’s villainy and ascertaining his murder of the Princes in the tower, just as there are those who believe that he has been falsely represented by Shakespeare’s play and fight avidly to clear his name of any and all crimes. Because of the uncertainty surrounding his true character, Richard III is an intriguing personality to put into modern culture, which is exactly what Ian McKellen does in his rendition of the infamous ruler....   [tags: William Shakespeare Richard III Essays]

Research Papers
843 words (2.4 pages)

William Shakespeare's Othello Essay

- William Shakespeare's Othello Every artist needs a subject to draw inspiration from—an idea to develop into a masterpiece. Leonardo da Vinci had Madame Lisa to portray in paint. The Beach Boys had Rhonda to render in rhyme. And William Shakespeare had one of one hundred stories written by Giraldi Cinthio to help him create his masterpiece, Othello. Each artist creates his own interpretation from his source. Shakespeare transformed the core of Cinthio’s story into a tragedy. A tragedy is drama which depicts “a public struggle between larger-than-life protagonists and universal forces” (Glossary 175)....   [tags: William Shakespeare Othello Essays]

Research Papers
2185 words (6.2 pages)

Essay on William Shakespeare's Hamlet

- William Shakespeare's Hamlet Shakespeare’s works are rife with metatheatrical self-references; as Polonius blathers on about madness early in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Gertrude ends the excessive bombast with the quip, “More matter with less art” (Hamlet, II.i.97). Shakespeare mocks his own poetic form and that of his classical influences with this line, yet his plays are full of lyricism. However, the Greek and Roman texts Shakespeare studied as a boy as well as those of his contemporaries are so full of “art,” (meaning that they emphasize form over content) that they are often considered by the masses as arcane....   [tags: William Shakespeare Hamlet Essays]

Research Papers
3617 words (10.3 pages)

future in the instant." (Act i sc v)

Despite his own desire to be king, Macbeth still is not certain that
he should kill Duncan. He is said to be, "...too full o' th' milk of
humane kindness," (Act i sc v) to act on the Witches' prophecies by
Lady Macbeth. This is quite a contrast to the way he was described in
Act One Scene Two when the Captain talks about his bravery in battle.
The difference here is that Macbeth is being convinced to kill his
king rather than kill his enemies. Lady Macbeth persists and
eventually persuades him to go ahead with the murder, "Away, and mock
the time with fairest show, false face must hide what the false heart
doth know."

We can see how affected Macbeth is by the event when he sees the
vision of a dagger in Act Two Scene One. His mind is playing tricks on
him because he is so afraid, "...a false creation proceeding from the
heat-oppresed brain?" He is having to choose between his loyalty to
the king and gaining a kingdom himself, but in the end his ambition
overcomes his conscience and he goes ahead with Duncan's murder,
"Whiles I threat he lives: words to the heat of deeds too cold breath
gives."

Although the vision of the dagger shows us Macbeth is under a lot of
pressure, it doesn't necessarily mean his character is changing or
that he is going slightly mad. It does mean, however, that even though
he is a bit disturbed by the thought of killing his king, he is still
able to take control of his actions.

After the murder things begin to change. Both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth
are very distressed and this is shown by the break in rhythm in Act
Two Scene Two:

Lady Macbeth: "Did you not speak?" Macbeth: "When? Lady Macbeth:
"Now." Macbeth: "As I descended?" Lady Macbeth: "Ay."

Shakespeare often broke up the rhythm of a characters speech to
illustrate how emotionally unstable they were. In this case Macbeth
and his wife are very nervous and guilty because they have committed
the worst crime possible, the murder of a king.

In the time 'Macbeth' was written Guy Fawkes and other conspiritors
had decided to plot against King James I and kill him by blowing up
Parliament during his speech on November 5th. As a result of this,
many plays were written that favoured plotters against the monarchy
coming to a bad end. Also, it was believed that disturbing the social
hierachy (by, for example, killing a king)everything would be thrown
into chaos.

This was something else Shakespeare picked up on so he wrote about
such chaos in Act Two Scene Four, "Thou seest the Heavens, as troubled
with man's act...by th' clock 'tis day, and yet the dark Night
strangles the travelling lamp." In this scene the sun has been obscued
and Duncan's horses had eaten each other. Scenes describing happenings
such as these would have been totally acceptable to the Jacobean
audiences because it agreed with James I's beliefs.

After killing Duncan, Macbeth is crowned the knew king because the
original heir (Malcolm) had fled on hearing his father had been
murdered. In order to keep his throne, Macbeth has to kill many other
people such as Banquo, Fleance and Macduff's family. The other murders
are actually commited by hired murderers rather than Macbeth himself.
This could mean that he dares not kill anyone directly because of the
guilt he would bare. He had already killed the king, perhaps he wanted
to avoid going through that experience for a second time.

The point where he plots to kill Banquo is another turning point in
Macbeth's character. Banquo was his best friend that he fought
alongside in battle and yet he murders him because the Witches
prophecied that his sons would be kings. This shows us that keeping
the throne is far more important to him than keeping his best friend.
First he betrayed the king and now he has betrayed his own best
friend. His ambition at this stage is far greater than his loyalty to
even his closest companions.

However, Macbeth does not kill Banquo without his conscience coming
back to haunt him. In Act Three Scene Four Banquo's ghost appears at a
banquet and sits at the king's chair (it is significant that he is sat
in the king's chair because his sons were to be the future kings of
Scotland). Macbeth's guilt is beginning to catch up with him and shows
itself as a ghost. His mind is playing tricks on him again because he
has such a huge weight on his mind, the guilt of murdering his king
and the guilt of murdering his closest friend.

This guilt is obviously taking it's toll on Macbeth because even Lady
Macbeth is keeping some control. He comments on how, "...you can
behold such sights, and keep the natural ruby in your cheeks, when
mine is blanch'd with fear." Lady Macbeth deals with the situation
better than him probably because she did not have to carry out the
first murder.

Macbeth's insecurity forces him to pay another visit to the three
Witches so that they can tell him his future and give him some peace
of mind, "Though castles topple on their warder's heads...answer me to
what I ask you." (Act iv sc i) The Witches then call the Three
Apparitions to give Macbeth the advice it wants to hear so badly. The
first thing he is told is to, "Beware Macduff", the second that,
"...none of woman born shall harm Macbeth", and finally that, "Macbeth
shall never vanquish'd be, until Great Birnam Wood, to high Dunsinane
Hill shall come against him."

These words were exactly what Macbeth needed and wanted to hear, but
probably did him more harm than good. They filled him with false hope
and confidence, but still reminded him that Banquo's sons were to be
the future kings of Scotland and not his own descendants.

Nevertheless, Macbeth takes heed of the first piece of advice and sets
out to kill Macduff and his family, "The Castle of Macduff, I will
surprise...give to th' edge o' th' sword his wife, his babes." (Act iv
sc i) Macbeth is still focused on keeping his throne and is prepared
to kill a whole family if needs be. This is also another turning point
in his character, it shows us that he is willing to do anything to get
peace of mind and keep the crown and does not care what sacrifices he
makes to get there. He feels that having chosen an evil path he cannot
turn back, "I am in blood, stepped in so far that should I wade no
more."

When he hears of his wife's death he feels his life has lost meaning
and what he desired so much had no point because he had lost the woman
he loved, "There would have been a time for such a word: to-morrow,
and to-morrow, and to-morrow."

At this point more and more things start to go wrong. Birnam Wood is
sighted marching towards Dunsinane Castle which was, as the
Apparitions said, the sign that he would be vanquished. Then, the last
of his certainties disappears when he is told Macduff was not born of
woman but by Caesarean section. This is where Macbeth's character
changes for the last time. He is, in a sense, returning to the person
he was at the beginning of the play. He refuses to surrender even when
there was no way he could win the battle. In desparation he fights
bravely with Macduff untill he meets his unfortunate end, "Yet I will
try the last. Before my body, I throw my warlike shield. Lay on
Macduff." (Act v sc vii)
Return to 123HelpMe.com